Moment of Indiana History

Lincoln’s Sum Book

Abraham Lincoln lived almost a quarter of his life in Indiana, from December 1816, when he was seven, until March 1830, just after he turned twenty-one. He was a studious young man, even though by his own account he had less than a year of formal schooling.

One of the only artifacts from Abe’s school days in Indiana is a collection of pages from one of his student notebooks. Although the Lincoln’s were poor, young Abe managed to acquire a few sheets of paper which he sewed together to form a small math notebook, known as a sum book. It may have contained as many as fifty pages, but today only about ten pages remain.

After Lincoln’s assassination, William Henry Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner and biographer, obtained the sum book from Lincoln’s stepmother and distributed the remaining pages. The leaves from the sum book represent the earliest documentation of Lincoln’s handwriting and show us the beginnings of Abe’s quest for knowledge on the path to greatness.

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